Men who slide down the social ladder during their lifetime take theblow much harder than women in the same position, a new study shows.
Women were twice as likely to be downwardly mobile but generallyavoided the depression and poor psychological wellbeing thatresearchers found in men in the same position.
Men who experienced a downward social shift were four timesmore likely to experience depression than men who improved their socialstatus, whereas there was no marked difference in mental health betweenwomen who had moved up or down the social ladder.
In the study, researchers from the University of Newcastleupon Tyne used the occupation of the head of the household as themarker for social status, and surveyed men and women born in 1947 inNewcastle from childhood to age 50.
Their findings could be explained by the fact that men born inthis era gained much of their self-esteem from their careers, whereaswomen found fulfilment from other social pursuits outside work, such aschildren and friendships. It's also possible that women are moreemotionally resilient in this type of situation, say the researchers.
The study is published today in the Journal of Epidemiologyand Community Health. Lead researcher, Dr Paul Tiffin, who also worksas an NHS psychiatrist, said: "The Newcastle Thousand Families Studygave us an opportunity to try and understand more about howsocioeconomic circumstances throughout life might be linked to mentalwell-being in middle age. With an increasing emphasis on the promotionof good health, findings such as these are likely to challenge thoseinvolved in health and social policy."
The study used data from 224 men and 283 women in the ThousandFamilies Study, a Newcastle University project which has examined thehealth and social circumstances of children born in Newcastle upon Tynein May and June 1947 throughout their lives.
Information on participants' mental health was gained from a28-part questionnaire which probed stress and anxiety levels, generalmood, and tendency to suicidal thoughts, amongst other markers.
Study co-author and Director of the Thousand Families Study,Dr Mark Pearce, of Newcastle University's School of Clinical MedicalSciences, said:
"It's possible that this reaction is typical of this post-wargeneration, where the man expected to be the main breadwinner of thehousehold and took a significant knock to his self-esteem when he wasnot able to achieve this. Women, on the other hand, perhaps viewedhaving a successful family life as more important than their careers.
"Having robust mental health is just as important as goodphysical health -- the two are often interdependent. Depression canlead to a vicious circle where poor mental health and lack ofengagement with society becomes the norm for an individual.
Dr Tiffin added "Whilst we must be cautious in generalisingour findings to other populations, our findings do suggest that it'simportant for governments and other agencies to consider the widereffect of mass redundancies and drastic economic changes. The tendencyis to focus on the financial losses that workers and their familiesexperience but this research shows that the psychological effectsshould equally be taken into account and acted upon."
The work was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Minnie HendersonTrust, the Sir John Knott Trust, and the Special Trustees of NewcastleHospitals.
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